Conflicts in Countries
& the Security Council


Impressions of being an Anglican delegate at the 48th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women

I have been asked, what was it like to be a delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women? And my answer has been: fascinating and frustrating. The fascinating part was to be one of the fifty-four women and men who represented the Anglican Consultative Council for the two weeks in March during which the UN/CSW had its annual meeting. The ACC is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) of the UN and is thereby entitled to register delegates for attendance at various meetings. In 2003 I was one of the two women able to attend every CSW session, and I came away with a commitment to make sure that this year the delegation would be as representative of the Anglican Communion as possible.

And representative it was. There were women from South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Liberia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Aotearoa (New Zealand), India, Egypt, Canada and the United States. And on occasion we were joined by delegates from the Mothers Union, which is its own NGO. Thirteen Provinces out of thirty-eight is not bad for a first try! Such a diverse delegation was able to address specific issues facing the CSW, and it was cause for much joy in the forming of close relationships among sisters from differing cultures. Most of the delegates from outside the US were designated by their primates, and their costs were underwritten through a fund created by the US delegates.

The two themes addressed by the CSW this year were “the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality” and “women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution, and in post-conflict peace building.” They are taken directly from the Beijing Platform of Action adopted in 1995. A desired product at the end of the two weeks is statements of “agreed conclusions” on each theme as well as resolutions on particular situations affecting global women which have arisen during the past year. More than 900 delegates participated in 175 side events (UNese for workshops) ranging from trafficking and sex tourism to empowering widows to building peace among children to religion and patriarchy to HIV/AIDS.

The Anglican Delegation sponsored several events itself: the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa, Women’s Stories of Inclusion and Exclusion taken from the Abrahamic Texts and Women as Peace Makers (held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and covered in a separate article in this issue). The International Women’s Day celebration was especially meaningful this year as it marked the retirement of Assistant Secretary-General Angela King, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women. A sister Anglican, Ms. King has served at the United Nations for 40 years and is especially revered by women throughout the world. The special emphasis on this day was Women and HIV/AIDS, spoken to by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who illustrated through statistics the horrific impact of the pandemic on women and children and by the head of the World Health Organization, who spoke by satellite from Geneva describing the need to overcome the stigma and violence in order to treat married women, the most rapidly increasing number of those suffering the infection.

The frustration part of my answer arises out of the embarrassment of being a United States citizen and observing the efforts of the US Mission to prevent passage of any statements reaffirming the Beijing Platform because of its reference to women’s reproductive rights, the World Court and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, otherwise known as CEDAW. At the UN all decisions are made by consensus, which means there are countless caucus negotiations, but out of the desire for passage, at the end of the two weeks the rest of the world capitulated. The saying heard on the last day was "we must have agreement this year for Angela.”

Fifteen days of plenary sessions, choosing among all those side events, participating in caucus negotiations, attending statement caucuses and meeting times with the Anglican delegates made for many busy hours. Sharing meals and concerns knit us together into a community which was highlighted as we learned the refrain for a Papua New Guinea song. Osa osa te ha e, osa te ha e (welcome, welcome to you) were the words we sang to Jane Williams as she arrived at the Episcopal Church Center for the special dinner party planned for her by Phoebe Griswold. Tao sister Jane, simba vi e (we are waiting for you sister Jane) went the verse. In some way those words also captured our feelings for one another at the conclusion of our days together.

- Marge Christi was a member of the ACC Delegation to the 48th CSW and lives in the Diocese of Newark.

Published by the Anglican Communion Office ©2002 Anglican Consultative Council